When one of his animals wants to take one day off from the usual routine at Mossy Bottom Farm, a farmer ends up getting into hot water and high fashion all thanks to the manipulations of "Shaun the Sheep."
Initially created by Aardman's Nick Park in the "Wallace & Gromit," short "A Close Shave," Shaun went on to have a career as the star of a British children's TV series. For his big screen debut, the series' Richard Starzak cowrites and codirects with "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit screenwriter Mark Burton. The stop-motion animation isn't on the same level as Parks's work, more directly aimed at kids, but its homage to silent film comedy (there is no dialogue, only sound affects, bleats and barks) means its stuffed full with gags old and new (watch for cat in a neck cone evoking Hannibal Lecter!). I had a smile on my face throughout.
Beginning with an academic ratio 'home movie,' the Farmer is established as a young ginger with hair on his head and a loving relationship with his animals, a nice setup for the middle-aged monk-haired man we meet slamming his alarm clock before washing up and inadvertently slamming his poor dog Blitzer behind his door and opening the barn where his sheep await their daily 'schedule.' Sheep sheering is a dreaded event as the Farmer's three pigs love to make fun of their shorn farm mates.
After paying off the duck, Shaun constructs a barrier designed to trick the Farmer into falling asleep as they same small flock get recounted jumping over it. But when they load him into an on site caravan, it becomes dislodged and, to their horror, rolls down the road towards The Big City. Shaun boards a bus to follow, but arrives to see the post-crash Farmer being taken away in an ambulance. Just as he spies Trumper, the rage-filled animal control officer, snagging a victim, the rest of Shaun's flock arrive on the next bus. Thankfully there's an animal charity shop nearby where they can disguise themselves as humans (this features the classic sheep-standing-on-sheep inside coat gag along with lamb Timmy masquerading as a backpack). Meanwhile, the Farmer has been diagnosed with memory loss and is wandering the streets.
Shaun and his gang, which includes Slip, a helpful snaggle-toothed stray who eluded Trumper's snare pole, have many adventures, including dinner in a fine dining restaurant where they inappropriately follow the lead of a high-haired celebrity sitting in the window. When we later see him having his coif destroyed in a fancy salon, the Farmer is also on hand and, spying clippers, rushes in to sheer the man, beginning a fad which suddenly turns him into a celebrity hair stylist.
The characterization of the sheep is a little odd, the problem of their downturned mouths solved by any sounds made dispatched from the side, an awkward effect not unlike a third ear. But they all have their own defining characteristics, artfully played up by the stop motion animators. The filmmakers have a field day sprinkling references from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" to "White God" throughout an adventure that includes a Baa-Baa Quartet, Banksy graffiti and a cow jumping over the moon.
Robin did not see this film.
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